When Backbreaker was released last year, I thought it had potential. The Euphoria engine was great at rendering tackles and animations, making for a smooth playing football game. There were a few issues, such as the QB camera and, of course, a lack of an NFL license, but it was surprisingly fun for what it was. Fast-forward to this year and 505 Games brings it back in bite-sized form with Backbreaker Vengeance. While some might be expecting a trimmed-down game of football, what we are given instead is a collection of obstacle courses that just happen to be centered in the realm of football.
Now this may sound tantalizing on paper, but when you consider that a lot of the fundamentals of football have been omitted here, things start to break apart. For example, there are no passing drills, play calling or field goal kicking involved. Instead, you run from one side of the field to the other, trying to rack up points while avoiding tacklers. You can also switch roles, but that is pretty much the end of the diversity. The game is broken down into waves, so think of it as Horde mode taking place inside a fantasy football league and you will get the general idea.
There are three total modes. Tackle Alley has you moving downfield avoiding tacklers and working through mazes to get to the endzone. Showboating and performing tricks boost your score and are what is necessary to dominate the leaderboards. Vengeance lets you assume the other side of the ball and chase down ball carriers for sweet domination. Finally, we have Supremacy, which has you racing against four other ball carriers. The loser gets to become the tackler. This is by far the most enjoyable mode when played with friends.
Speaking of which, Vengeance offers all of these modes online, as well as locally. Teaming up with friends is infinitely more enjoyable than playing against the AI, and there are even leaderboard integration woven into each challenge. There are a total of 80 challenges in all and working your way up the leaderboard is definitely fun, but the game’s price is still its biggest barrier to entry. $15 for a stripped down version of the gridiron will be hard to swallow for a lot of people. Still, if you take it for what it is, you will undoubtedly have fun with it.
Visually, the game packs a solid punch with the Euphoria physics engine as the highlight of the package. Natural Motion, the inventors of the engine (also used in games like The Force Unleashed and, more notably, the Grand Theft Auto series), developed this game. The player animations during collisions are impressive, even if they have the occasional weird transition. The audio is equally impressive, granted you can handle the hip-hop overtones of the soundtrack. A nice selection of tracks compliments the exceptional effects. Hearing players crash into one another is just as impressive as watching it. The audio, much like the game however, is still simple in its approach.
There really isn’t much else I can say about Backbreaker Vengeance other than I had a good time with it; and in the end isn’t that all that matters? Sure, the price point is steep and the modes are limited, but the sheer in-and-out fun you can have really is enjoyable. I say take the demo for a spin and, if you dig what it offers, you might want to lay down the money for the full version just for leaderboards and online play. I still wish we could see an NFL licensed game using this engine, but for now, I will continue to bash some heads with Vengeance.
Review copy provided by publisher.